The recommendations made by the EU EOM also include legislation to strengthen the capacity and procedures in line with the EU’s constitutional mandate, revision of the law to ensure equal campaign opportunities by removing all disproportionate restrictions, fostering formal cooperation between the election administration and main social platforms, and adopting special measures as anticipated by the Constitution to remove barriers and promote equal participation of women in public and political life.
These are not binding and are merely recommendations, the Mission’s Chief Observer and European Parliament member from Portugal Marisa Matias stressed, saying, “The recommendations are addressed to relevant institutions such as the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, the Government, the Parliament, political parties, and civil society organisations.”
Matias added that the Mission will be meeting representatives of relevant institutions in the coming days. “At the moment, we were only able to deliver the final report to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Election Commission of Sri Lanka and we still didn’t discuss this with the actors,” she explained.
Members of the Mission will also return to Sri Lanka in two years’ time to make an assessment of the level of implementation of the recommendations.
In addition to the recommendations, the EU EOM report also made a number of observations. It stated that the country’s legal framework is adequate for conducting democratic elections in line with Sri Lanka’s international commitments but notes that there are some gaps and weaknesses.
An observation was also made on the Election Commission, with the EU EOM stating that the Commission carried out its work credibly and professionally and that regular consultation with political parties, candidates, media, civil society organisations, and the police increased the level of confidence in the institution.
One other interesting observation made was on the eligibility of voters, with the report stating that the Election Commission of Sri Lanka has estimated that 180,000 to 200,000 first-time voters were disenfranchised due to the registration cut-off date.
Overall, however, the EU EOM observed that Election Day was peaceful and orderly with only a few violent incidents reported. The Mission observed Election Day proceedings at 297 polling stations and the report states that 37% of these did not have a layout that sufficiently protected the secrecy of the vote.
Over a period of two months, from 11 October to 12 December 2019, a core team of nine analysts as well as 30 long-term observers and 30 short-term observers monitored all aspects of the electoral process and the national electoral legal framework and its implementation. The Mission was in the country on an invitation extended by the Election Commission.
The report is a comprehensive analysis of the observations and looks at areas like voter and candidate registration, campaign environment, media, digital communications and social media, and participation of women, ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities.
Questions were raised on if the EU EOM will be observing upcoming Parliamentary Elections but Matias stressed that the Mission only observes a country’s elections if they are invited to do so and that it was too early to comment on the matter.